Gatekeeping Is No Genuine Substitute For Education

Our community is in dire need of a tune up, especially religious leadership. We need people at the helm who truly have the skills to teach, not just regurgitate textual material. I’m not calling for abandoning texts, just that we need folks who can really and truthfully convey the meanings of the texts, amongst many other things, to our community members.

That’s why I’m always disturbed when I hear people say, “such-and-such can’t be translated from the Qur’an” and then proceed to translate what was apparently locked away in Harry Potter’s Chamber of Secrets. In my esteem this is nothing other than such a person disqualifying themselves as a proficient educator. But furthermore, I also see it as part of a fundamental misunderstanding of what translation even means:

from the Latin translatus “carried over”, trans, meaning “across, beyond” and latus “borne” or “carried”.

So the meaning of the Qur’an can indeed be “carried over” to other languages. Will those new translations be independent of the source from which they are translated from? No. But intellectual gatekeeping (a symptom rooted in a vanquished self-esteem and identity more than anything else) will never be a substitute for true education.

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